Take A Bite Out Of Fall: Top Apple-Picking Spots In America

Fall is finally here, and for many families across the nation this means taking part in the beloved tradition of apple picking. As the temperatures start to dip, the ripe fruit weighs heavy on tree branches across the country and orchards from New England to Southern California open their doors for people to come and gather.

These days there are also tons of "extras," to enjoy, such as farm-to-table food options, homemade baked goods, petting zoos, and picturesque picnic areas so you can get right to the apple eating.

So dig out grandma's favorite apple pie recipe, grab your baskets, and head to one of these wondrous locations this weekend to stock up for the season.

Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Conn. 

Connecticut's self-titled "sweet spot," located in the rolling hills of Middlefield, has been owned and operated by the Lyman family since 1741 — making it the 12th oldest business in the U.S. This time of year, visitors have access to 12 different varieties of apples as well as peaches, pears, and pumpkins, all ripe for the picking. The farm has a giant corn maze and championship golf course on site, along with a farm shop called the Apple Barrel, which serves homemade pies, apple cider donuts, and breakfast on the weekends. There are even weekly events such as pumpkin painting and cooking demonstrations.

Riley's at Los Rios Rancho, Oak Glen, Calif.

Nestled in the San Bernardino foothills is the historic, apple growing area of Oak Glen, just 75 miles east of Los Angeles, the Los Rios Rancho has a been a part of this community for over 100 years. Now owned by the Riley Family, the more than 200-acre orchard is a fully operational fruit farm, popular event space, farm shop, and museum. Fruit fanatics can take a historic horse-drawn hayride, take part in craft making sessions (from candle making to cider pressing), and get up close and personal with some furry friends at the petting zoo. On fall weekends there is also live music and barbecue. Oh and don't forget the eight different varieties of apples available for self-picking.

Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction, N.Y. 

Owned by the Morgenthau family for almost 100 years, this historic New York state apple orchard has, in recent years, become a modern, diversified ecological farm with 15 acres of vegetable plantings, 1000 pasture-raised chickens, and over 80 acres of fruit — including an incredible 50 varieties of apples. On weekends, visitors can indulge in a burger from the apple wood grill, fresh pressed cider, homemade donuts, and freshly churned ice-cream. Or you can jump on a hayride to get a full tour of the spectacular property.

Apple Jack Orchards, Delano, Minn.

Just 30 minutes west of Minneapolis are the Apple Jack Orchards, home to 10,000 apple trees of 29 different varieties. While a year-round growing operation, this time of year the orchard becomes a "family fun farm" with pick-your-own raspberries, pumpkins, squash, and of course, apples. Visitors can explore the huge 7-acre corn maze, grab a snack at the Apple Pantry Cafe, take a wagon or pony ride, or fire the apple cannon. There is even the Old Barn Gift Shop, located inside the 100 year old hay barn, which sells seasonal decor and gifts.

Draper Girls Country Farm, Mt. Hood Parkdale, Ore. 

Draper Girls Farm is a 40-acre orchard just an hour's drive from downtown Portland. It is part of the Hood River Valley's expansive orchard region that is responsible for around 45 percent of the nation's pear crop. But this time of year, there is another reason to visit — fresh apple cider. The farm is home to the Hood River Valley's only non-pasteurized, licensed, cider mill that is in operation year round. After picking your own apples, guests can feed the farm animals, sample the famous cinnamon-sugar dried apple slices, shop the homemade preserves and farm raised meat, or just enjoy a picnic in the garden with its stunning views of Mt Hood.

Stribling Orchard, Markham, Va.

Owned and operated by the same family for six generations, this 200-year-old farm is believed to be one of the first ever "pick-your-own" facilities in the state. But it's not just the apples (of which there are over 20 different varieties) that make a visit to the Stripling Orchard worth it. Historic property built on the farm dates back to the mid-1700s and is encircled by spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jones Creek Farms, Sedro Woolley, Wash.

A perfect example of the phrase "good things come in small packages," Jones Creek Farms sits on just four acres. Yet owners Les and Talea Price have managed to squeeze some 150 different varieties of apples onto their compact farmstead. The couple offer highly educational, guided ethnobotany tours of the farm, where they discuss the history of apple growing, their own journey with the orchard, the complexities of each variety. There is also a pumpkin patch, farm animals to pet and hayrides through the beautiful surroundings.

Sky Top Orchard, Flat Rock, N.C. 

Perched on top of one of the highest peaks in the area, with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Sky Top Orchard has long been a popular pick-your-own farm, dating back to the 1960s. Visitors have over 20 different varieties of apple to choose from, including Honey Crisp, Cortland, and Gala, along with a duck pond, a barnyard area (featuring sheep, goats, geese, and chickens), as well as a bamboo forest and scenic picnic area.

This article was originally published by Sophie Forbes